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Ask Dave: There’s a leak in my RV’s shower supply line. How do I access it?

Dear Dave,
My RV seems to have a leak in the shower supply line. My problem is the shower wall backs up to a closet with two drawers below. There is no access door to get to the supply lines and I don’t know where the leak may be. What do you suggest I do to fix this problem? —Gary, 2019 Fleetwood Bounder 35K

Dear Gary,
From what I could find on the General RVs For Sale site, it looks like your 35 Bounder has the rear bathroom; is that correct?

The shower surround looks to be one piece with no “panel” at the wall with the faucet, so access has to be from the bedroom side, right? Typically, the shower supply lines would run from the basement area and come up inside the hollow wall between the wardrobe and the shower. These are PEX lines with compression fittings, so if you can get access to them, they can be fixed with a coupler.

Check the RV supply line leak first

Where do you see the water leak and why do you think it is the supply lines? Leaks are what I call “gremlins” in the RV industry. That’s because where the water finally shows up is not always where it starts to leak or enter the rig. One trick we have done in the past is to put pink RV antifreeze in the freshwater tank and run the suspected plumbing line to make sure the leak is pink. If not, it’s most likely moisture coming in from an outside source.

Getting access to the water supply line

I am surprised there is no access panel in the wardrobe as the faucet typically has a small square panel behind it. I would start by taking off the faucet from the shower side if possible and inspecting the lines and connection there. This should show you the direction of the hot and cold coming to the faucet or valve. Then, you might have to cut an access panel in the wardrobe to get to them.

It seems ridiculous that there is no access. However, I have found that the engineers and designers that build these don’t work on them, so we see issues like this. You can cut a small square in the wardrobe wall and decide if you need to go bigger to get to the issue. Then cover the opening with a larger piece of paneling that matches.

How to disguise what you cut out

In one situation similar to this, we cut a square in a shirt closet and covered the opening with a full piece of cedar that looked factory installed. Another option would be to cut a good square in the wall, then place two or three 1×1 sticks inside the walls. Fasten them on both sides and place the panel square you cut out into the hole and screw it into the 1×1 backers. Then cover the cuts with molding to make it look like a frame.

Whatever you decide, I would suggest investigating all plumbing lines carefully before tearing into the wardrobe. Maybe some of our readers have had a similar situation that they could comment on. Readers, have you had a leak in your shower supply line before?

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

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WrkrBee
5 months ago

An inexpensive borescope from Amazon, for a phone, can be used to look for leaks through a small hole in the wall. If you do have to open a wall, the oscillating tool on slow speed is ideal. I use the borescope to check for wires and plumbing location before cutting.

Having been in maintenance for 40+ years, I’ve always said engineers and designers should have to work in the maintenance shop, and pull wrenches, for a year before they design the first thing. I’ve looked at their drawings and asked how a motor or cylinder could be replaced without frame disassembly. With frame disassembly, the setup would need to be redone adding to downtime. Many times, the design changed to simplify part swaps.

John Goodell
5 months ago

One big point not mentioned is that many of these PEX connections use plastic screw-on fittings when connecting to faucets and adapters. They use barb fittings with metal compression bands on PEX-to-PEX connections. Plastic screw-on fittings can loosen over time, resulting in water leaks. They must not be over tightened, so when checking them use rubber gripped gloves and only tighten by hand. Make the fitting as “hand tight” as possible (and avoid using tools which will inevitably result in overtightening and potential splitting of the plastic fitting).

Ed K
5 months ago

They make plastic access panels and they are available at the big box home improvement stores. I have installed a couple of them in my coach to gain access and they come in handy. In a closet, they could pass for the factory installation and can be painted if necessary.

tom
5 months ago

The part in your comment about designers not having to “work” on their design is true across the entire board. RVs are not unique in this area.

Timothy L Mountford
5 months ago
Reply to  tom

AMEN